The student news site of Carlmont High School in Belmont, California.

What is it?

May 29, 2023

The National School Lunch Program is a federal program created by Congress and signed by President Harry Truman in 1946 under the Richard B. Russell National School Lunch Act. The program operates in both public and private schools and works to provide nutritionally balanced meals for students. At the federal level, the NSLP is administered by the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Food and Nutrition Service, but at the state level, state agencies work with schools to administer the program.

Since its implementation, millions of children have participated in the NSLP. Before the pandemic, 26.9 million students were being served school lunch each day, according to the School Nutrition Association. In 2020, 3.2 billion meals were served, of which 76.9% were served for free or at reduced prices.

Initially, the program focused on providing meals to students with food insecurity by providing free or reduced-price meals for those who qualified through Federal Assistance Programs. Students who didn’t qualify for these programs would have to pay for lunch. Most schools nationwide still operate under this system; however, in the 2022 to 2023 school year, California became the first state to implement a universal feeding program that provides all students free lunches.

“We can now feed every child free of charge in the state of California, as long as they receive a compliant meal,” Sandra Kennedy Jonaidi, Food Service Director for the Sequoia Union School District, said.

Over 34 million people face food insecurity in the United States, according to Feeding America. This includes nine million kids, which equates to one in every eight children. This number increased drastically during the COVID-19 pandemic when unemployment rates rose. The goal of the NSLP is to help those living in poverty and ensure every student can receive nutritious meals. This goal is outlined in their mission statement on their website.

“Our mission is to increase food security and reduce hunger in partnership with cooperating organizations by providing children and low-income people access to food, a healthy diet and nutrition education in a manner that supports American agriculture and inspires public confidence,” their mission statement states.

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